Spring 2009: Register
Exception to the Rule
Atlanta Tribune publisher Pat Lottier 84MPH succeeds by giving readers—not to mention advertisers—what they want
By Mary J. Loftus
Reaching into a box in the storage room of her Roswell office, publisher Pat Lottier 84MPH holds up a T-shirt featuring a reprint of Atlanta Tribune: The Magazine’s December/January cover. It’s a striking close-up of President Barack Obama, with “The Year of Change” in bold type beneath his thoughtful visage.
This national coverage is a departure for the the Atlanta Tribune, which since 1986 has focused on local leaders from greater Atlanta’s black professional community. But the inauguration of the country’s first African American president called for a collector’s edition.
Tribune staff sent an email blast to their large database of sources and subscribers to compile a reaction piece. “We had so many people writing in that we had to shut it down after a certain number of responses,” Lottier says.
The inside spread begins with an open letter from author Alice Walker, who writes: “Dear Brother Obama, You have no idea, really, of how profound this moment is for us—us being the black people of the southern United States. You think you know, because you are thoughtful and you have studied our history. But seeing you deliver the torch so many others before you carried, year after year, decade after decade, century after century, only to be struck down before igniting the flame of justice and of law, is almost more than the heart can bear.”
Other respondents include Congressman John Lewis, Spelman College President Beverly Daniel Tatum, State Senator Kasim Reed, Bernice King 90L 90T, and former President Jimmy Carter, as well as an assortment of the magazine’s readers. Many wrote that they had tears streaming down their cheeks as they watched the election results.
Lottier can understand. For the inauguration, she traveled to Bethesda, Maryland, and took the train over to Washington, D.C. “I just wanted to be there among all the people,” she said. “It was cold, but no one cared. No one was upset over anything. Even the small children were so good. Everyone was just there to be a part of history, part of that special moment.”
The Atlanta Tribune, which switched from newspaper to magazine format in 2000, has been around to record nearly a quarter-century of such moments, as “black Atlanta’s leading source for relevant, thought-provoking news and information for business, careers, technology, wealth-building, politics, and education.”
Lottier did not envision a career in journalism when she set off to attend Johns Hopkins University on full scholarship in 1966. “I was from a small town in Kentucky, and all there was to do was study,” she says. “I guess I was in competition with myself. I really wanted to be a doctor, but the guidance counselor said women are nurses.”
While at Johns Hopkins, she met her husband, George Lottier. After graduating from nursing school, she earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Western Connecticut State University. She and George moved near Atlanta for his job and had two sons, Shawn and Christopher.
“We settled in Roswell, and I was doing nursing at the time, working for DeKalb’s sickle cell program and then as operations manager of the home-care division of Baxter International,” says Lottier, who decided to pursue a master’s degree in public health at Emory. “With one hand, I was talking to the boys, with the other, I was trying to finish my papers.”
George, whose parents published the Afro American newspaper in Baltimore that his great-grandfather founded, began helping to publish the Atlanta Tribune, a fledgling business newspaper aimed at the metro area’s black executives and entrepreneurs. Within two issues, publication had been turned over to the Lottiers.
George became operations and systems manager while Pat took on the role of publisher; she tripled advertising within two years. “I tailored partnership programs with corporations and businesses, and hosted events that our advertisers sponsored, where they could come face to face with our readers,” she says. “We knew we were going to be a monthly—we couldn’t compete with the dailies or even weeklies on breaking news. But the Atlanta market at that time did not have a business publication that targeted the African American community with in-depth information about how events were affecting them.”
The Tribune now has a seven-person staff, not including columnists and freelancers, and a solid 35,000 circulation, with readers around the country. “We’re a small, hard-working team that operates like a family,” she says.
And Lottier’s sons, now thirty-seven and thirty-eight, are professionals in their own right: Shawn is a dentist in Roswell, while Christopher works in network computer security in Dunwoody.
During the magazine’s twentieth-anniversary gala in April 2007 at the Marriott Marquis downtown, attended by nearly six hundred community members, Black Enterprise publisher and chair Earl Graves Sr. praised Lottier for molding the publication into a “unique and effective vehicle for African American economic advancement.”
Just five months after the gala, George, who had left the magazine to become head of the Georgia Minority Supplier Development Council, died of a heart attack at age sixty-three. Each year in his honor, Lottier convenes the George A. Lottier Golf Tournament, which raises money for the Tribune scholarship fund.
Keeping pace with the times, the magazine now has an active website, a Facebook presence, and an e-newsletter and email blasts to keep readers informed and interacting. “We all saw the change coming,” Lottier says. “My team is pretty aggressive in giving the customers what they want.”
A sampling of articles from recent issues: profiles of black female executives in the Atlanta area, tips for surviving a layoff, a look at how small, black-owned businesses are weathering the recession, write-ups on two local spas.
Katrice Mines, editor since 2006, realized early on that Lottier was “a woman of few words, but her actions spoke volumes. Pat has been able to achieve a major feat in sustaining the magazine and growing its influence in this region over the past twenty-two years. Many publishers exclusively focus on the sales side of the business, occasionally lending guidance across the board when it’s necessary, and Pat’s style is true to that rule. Where she becomes the exception is that she is just as knowledgeable of the subjects we cover and the vast business landscape that we report on as our editorial staff. One meeting with her and you realize why she is where she is.”
Lottier continues to emphasize community involvement; Atlanta Tribune hosts numerous annual events such as the Power Couples reception, the Man of the Year, the Super Women’s health and lifestyle expo, the Hall of Fame, diversity roundtables, young professionals mixers, and business seminars. It also selects twenty social and nonprofit groups to support through the magazine’s “20 for 20” partnership initiative program. Winship Cancer Institute is a 2009 partner.
“At the end of the day,” Lottier says, “when you get a quick email from someone about a story they saw, or an old classmate they ran into at one of our events, and they say ‘Thank you, you made a difference,’ that’s what keeps me going.”